What is Jewelweed?
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is a plant that belongs to the balsam family. This herbaceous annual can be found growing in moist woods or along streams and riverbanks in North America. The plant gets its name from the way its seed pods “explode” when they are touched, releasing the edible seeds within. Jewelweed is also sometimes called “touch-me-not” for this reason.
The leaves are green, long and slender, they also have a jewel-like appearance. The jewelweed plant also has small, orange or yellow flowers.
Jewelweed often grows in the same general vicinity as poison ivy. The two plants have an interesting relationship, in that jewelweed is believed to be effective at treating poison ivy rash!
It is a herbaceous perennial plant that can grow to be three feet tall and blooms from July to September.
The jewelweed plant is native to North America, but is also found in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
The jeweled appearance of jewelweed is not just for looks; it serves an important function.
The water droplets on the leaves help to cool and moisten the air around the plant, which helps to keep it from drying out. The bumps on the leaves and stems help to deflect sunlight away from the plant’s surface. This allows jewelweed to thrive in hot, dry conditions that would kill other plants.
Jewelweed has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments. The Cherokee used it to treat bruises, cuts, and burns. The Potawatomi used it to treat colds, coughs, and wheezing. The Iroquois used it to treat rashes caused by poison ivy exposure.
Today, jewelweed is still used to treat poison ivy exposure and other skin conditions such as eczema and acne.
There are studies that suggest when jewelweed is infused in oil, it can be helpful for warts, ringworm and boils as well.
How Does It Work?
Jewelweed contains a natural compound called lawsone, which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. When the plant is crushed, the lawsone is released and can be applied directly to the skin.
Jewelweed is best harvested in June and July in unsprayed areas, but you may not see it in bloom until August and September, which is the case in my location.
The parts of the plant that are most commonly used are the sap and the stem, however, the leaves and flowers can be used as well.
How to Use Jewelweed
Jewelweed has a long history of medicinal use, and it is commonly used to treat poison ivy, bug bites, and other skin irritations.
To use topically, simply crush a few leaves to release the juice, then apply it to the affected area. This can be done in the field by just crushing the stems and leaves in your hands.
Jewelweed juice can also be used as a natural insect repellent. When applied to the skin, it creates a barrier that prevents insects from biting.
The juicy, succulent leaves and stems are cool to the touch and have a cooling, soothing effect when applied topically to the skin.
Jewelweed can also be made into a poultice, it’s a very simple process.
Here’s what you’ll need:
-1/2 cup of jewelweed leaves (chopped)
-1/4 cup of oatmeal (uncooked)
-1 tablespoon of baking soda
-1 cup of boiling water
-A clean cloth or bandage
How to Make an Infusion
Gather fresh jewelweed leaves and stems and chop them coarsely.
Put them in a pot with enough water to cover and bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and strain out the plant material. The liquid can be stored in a glass jar for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
To use, apply with a clean cloth as needed.
The leaves and stems are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves have a cucumber-like taste and are often used in salads or as a garnish.
The stems can be boiled or steamed and are often used as a cooked vegetable or added to your favorite soup recipes!
You can squeeze the flower to extract the seeds to eat, which taste something like walnuts!
(Jewelweed is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers, always check with your medical professional before using herbs)
Look for jewelweed where you live and see if it can work for you!